Full of history and culture, the city is vibrant, multicultural, and filled with vegan haunts
Berlin is a unique city, and unlike the rest of Germany in many ways. Divided in two by the Berlin Wall, the German capital has a population of more than three million people. Berlin has established itself as a center of youth and popular culture in Europe. Its countless attractions make it worth a visit.
Straight to the Point
The Germans have built monuments, memorials and museums to ensure that their history, for better or worse, will not be forgotten. If you want to go straight to the places that memorialize Berlin’s tumultuous history, you can start by visiting those related to World War II and the Third Reich. As long as you are prepared for disturbing images, visit the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, located in Oranienburg (22 miles from Berlin). From the Oranienburg Station, take the S1 Line (more about transportation in the box). You can walk to the camp from the station, but there is also a bus that goes there from the station. Established in 1936, the camp became a training center for Schutzstaffel (SS) officers. Most of the people executed at Sachsenhausen were Soviets who had been taken prisoner. Although the visit to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp requires some travel time, it is an important historical landmark.
To learn more about Jewish history, go to the Brandenburg Gate. It is particularly worth a visit at night, when it is beautifully lit. Nearby are the Reichstag building and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Under the memorial there is a museum, free to the public, which presents the history of the Jews in Germany, before and during World War II. There is usually a line to get in, but it is worth the wait if you have time. You can visit the gate and the memorial day or night, but the museum is only open during the day.
Of course, a visit to Berlin must include a sight of the remains of the Berlin Wall. Chunks of it can be found throughout the city. A very large piece, more than one kilometer in size and filled with graffiti, is close to Warschauer Brücke. To get there, take the U1 (Green Line) to Warschauer Strasse.
More To See
Another worthwhile sight, not in many tourist guides, is the Soviet War Memorial, located at the Treptower Park. The monuments that make up the memorial are huge, with inscriptions – of exaltation to the Soviet army and Stalin’s phrases – in both Russian and German . It was opened in 1949 to commemorate 5,000 of the 80,000 Soviet soldiers who fell in the Battle of Berlin in April–May 1945. The park itself is beautiful, and a great walk in the spring or autumn.
Another famous historical spot is Checkpoint Charlie, the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War, located at Friedrichstraße. At the crossing point itself, posters are displayed that provide a little bit of Checkpoint Charlie’s history. The nearby Checkpoint Charlie Museum was created to document the history of the famous crossing. If you want to walk around a little bit more, go to the Topography of Terror (Topographie des Terrors), an outdoor museum located in Niederkirchnerstrasse, which was the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS. More remains of the Berlin Wall can also be found here.
Don’t miss the famous Fernseherturm, the TV tower that is Germany’s tallest building. From the top of the tower, you can get a panoramic view of Berlin. In front of the tower is Humboldt Universität, the oldest university in the city. This is where books by authors considered Communists or anti-Hitler were burned. There is a monument commemorating the book burning at the university.
Fancy a boat trip? Take the Brückenfahrt tour, which boards at Jannowitzbrücke. The tour, which lasts approximately four hours, gives visitors an entirely different view of Berlin than can be seen by walking or using public transportation.
If you have time, take one day to go to Potsdam, historically a center of European immigration. There you can visit Sansoucci Palace, once home to the Prussian royal and German imperial families. The sumptuous New Palace and Babelsberg Park. The palace, built between 1763 and 1769, served as a guest house for numerous royal visitors. The trip from Berlin to Potsdam is just over 40 minutes using the S-Bahn. (S7 Line).
If you visit the famous shopping boulevard of Kufürsterdamm, you will be able to see the remnants of a church (Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtnis Kirche) that was bombed during World War II.
City of Art
Berlin is full of museums and art galleries, and it is worth the price to purchase a travel guide and choose the ones you want to visit depending on your interest. However, Museumsinsel (Museum Island) is a must-see for everyone. Besides the vast Pergamon-Museum, the area is home to other museums, such as the Neues Museum, the Berliner Dom (the biggest and most famous church in the city), and many beautiful and impressive buildings. Other museums worth a visit: Jewish Museum (Jüdisches Museum), with its impressive architecture; DDR Museum, a small museum that covers the history of Eastern Germany; Neue Nationalgalerie, which houses art from the 20th century; Hamburger Bahnhof Museum für Gegenwart, specializing in contemporary art; and Bauhaus, with exhibits reflecting the history and impact of this important 20th century school of architecture, design, and art.
Top Vegan-Friendly Places to Eat
Whatever kind of food you are in the mood for, Berlin has a vegan option.
Fast food heaven: Yoyo is the best place to get vegan burgers and pizza (with vegan cheese!) in the city. They have a huge selection of sandwiches and desserts as well. Everything is vegan. Location: Gärtnerstrasse 27, in Friedrichshain.
Vegan kebab: Yes, you read correctly. Here you can get a vegan option of the famous sandwich. Vöner offers delicious, inexpensive food, and they also have an amazing vegan mayonnaise. Location: Boxhagener Straße 56, close to the Ostkreuz station.
Best Sunday brunch: Viasko, one of the city’s best vegan restaurants, offers an amazing Sunday brunch, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is popular, so make a reservation! Location: Erkelenzdamm 49, in Kreuzberg. Another good option for a vegan Sunday brunch is Kopps. The restaurant serves a combination of traditional German dishes, veganized. Location: Linienstraße 94.
Gourmet: La Mano Verde is a vegan gourmet restaurant. It is worth a visit if you enjoy gourmet cuisine. Location: Uhlandstraße 181.
Cozy: The former chef at Berlin’s well-known vegan restaurant La Mano Verde opened her own restaurant, the Lucky Leek. It is cozy, with good prices, and 100% vegan. The owner cooks everything herself, so you might have to wait a little bit more but it’s worth it. Location: Kollwitzstraße 46.
Vegan pizzeria: Sfizy Veg offers bruschetta, focaccia, salads, pasta and, of course, pizza (with vegan cheese!). Location: Treptower Straße 95.
Brazilian cafe: The Brazilian-owned Café Vux is a great place to go to have a slice of cake or a snack. All selections are 100% vegan. Location: Wipperstraße 14, close to Neukölln station.
Vegan shopping: If you prefer to whip up something on your own, or just want to see what a German vegan supermarket has to offer, the place to go is Veganz, which is 100% vegan. For more information about it, read here. Location: Schivelbeiner Straße 34.
Transport: The best way to get around the city is using the train (S-Bahn) or the subway (U-Bahn). Together they provide a fast and efficient transportation network. You can buy daily passes, or a longer five or seven day pass, depending on how long you will be in the city. During the week, there is no U-Bahn or S-Bahn service from approximately 1 a.m. to 4:30 a.m., but trams, buses, and special night buses (parallel to the U-Bahn line) run every half an hour from 12:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m.
(All pics of Berlin by Clarissa Lage Barbosa)